By Pete Williams
The Tampa Bay Times broke down the numbers from the Feb. 12 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg and the results show that the inaugural event fell well short of what race organizer Competitor Group projected in May when it landed $30,000 in city services and $100,000 from Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater to market the event.
During a splashy news conference in May, Competitor projected 12,000 to 15,000 runners and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said the event could account for 10,000 hotel nights and pump $15 million into the local economy.
We examined those numbers at the time, turning to economist Philip Porter of the University of South Florida, a longtime critic of sports economic impact projections. Porter suggested only a small portion of the runners would come from outside the Tampa Bay market, minimizing economic impact.
That’s exactly what happened, according to The Times. The Feb. 12 race had just 7,000 finishers, only 1,248 of which came from out of state. The three official race hotels booked just 200 rooms. Other hotels already were nearly full with other bookings.
Porter says such projections always overestimate economic impact.
“Think about it. You’re coming to City Council and asking for money and support shutting down roads and you’re going to promise the sky,” Porter said this morning. “If you don’t deliver the crowds it doesn’t matter because there’s no mechanism in the contract that holds you accountable.”
Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater has a three-year contract for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and has pledged $100,000 for each race in 2013 and 2014.
Though the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon generally was well received, some runners wondered why it needed to begin at one site (Tropicana Field) and end at North Shore Park. Runners faced $15 parking fees at The Trop on race day and for mandatory packet pickup on the days before, though many parked in free two-hour spots on the streets and walked over.
Weather was chilly for the race, though that likely had little impact on late registration in the days leading up to the event as entry fees were a whopping $125. Advance registration was as little as $55 and Competitor was offering $65 registration for the 2013 event during packet pickup this year.